Fossil Halls, American Museum of Natural History

New York, New York

The world’s greatest collection of fossils tells the complete story of vertebrate evolution in this reinstallation and architectural restoration of the museum’s original galleries. In the Halls, returned to their nineteenth-century grandeur, daylight and details reemerge. RAA planned and designed renovation of the six Fossil Halls and the Barosaurus installation in the museum’s rotunda.

The installation demonstrates the changing nature of science; features the work of the museum's scientists; and gives visitors insight into the scientific process through interactive programs that allow glimpses of behind-the-scenes research. The Orientation Center provides an open, sit-down theater for a hundred and fifty people. The interior contains an under-floor system that accommodates both communications and expansion. Public circulation through the galleries becomes part of the interpretive program; visitors walk along the trunk and branches of a giant family tree that traces evolutionary relationships. Minimal barriers around the specimens allow the public to get close to the fossils.

The exhibition has been a hit since it opened, in the late 1990s: it enhanced the museum’s sterling reputation for scholarship; the press responded with new interest and continuing positive coverage; public awareness of the American Museum of Natural History increased worldwide. It continues to be a premier destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, boasting annual visitation of five million.

Year:
1996
Client:
American Museum of Natural History
Architect:

Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates

Size:

50,000 square feet

Awards:
  • Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Merit Award, Leisure Environments

  • Art Directors Club, Merit Award

  • I.D. Annual Design Review, I.D. Design Distinction Award in Environments

  • Industrial Designers Society of America, Industrial Design Excellence Award, Gold, Museum Exhibits and Set Design

  • International Association of Lighting Designers Lighting Awards, Citation

  • Best of What's New Award: The Year's 100 Greatest Achievements in Science and Technology, Eighth Annual Awards, Popular Science

  • Communication Arts, Award of Excellence, Environmental Graphics

  • Industrial Designers Society of America, Industrial Design Excellence Award, Silver, Museum Exhibits and Set Design

  • Illuminating Engineering Society, New York Section, Lumen Citation

  • Time Out New York - Kids "The Best of NYC," Selected Best Permanent Museum Exhibit

© 2014, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.